Kate Beckett's changed into jeans and roll neck jumper, her favourite leather trench coat flapping open as holding Castle's hand they cross the street into Central Park through the Center Drive entrance.
The November sun's a weak wash of light through the uniformly grey sky above, but the park's an awesome show of colour as trees and bushes give a final fanfare before shedding leaves to winter. A dozen shades of green blend into a similar number of oranges and reds, the occasional purple bursting through as though in rebellion.
Kate has never had much time for strolling through parks admiring the view, at least not during the last ten years or so. She glances up at the man walking along beside her, matching her long-legged stride with ease and blushes as she finds his eyes staring at her in open admiration, she's unaware of the colour the somewhat chill air has added to her face, the fact that her hair, longer now, returning to its natural colour, frames eyes which are a sparkling green, all she can think of is that Richard Castle, the man who could pick and choose just about any woman in New York is her boyfriend …
"Penny for them"
She shakes her head, grins and looks away, no way is she going to let him know just how easily he gets her!
He guides her deeper into the park and eventually they reach the Mineral Springs Pavilion and much to her surprise he leads her over to one of the wooden slatted tables outside 'Le Pain Quotidien', pulling a chair out for her and then taking his own opposite. They check out the chalked menu boards hanging on the wall and settle on a plate of Paris Ham and another of Smoked Salmon, the 'Sharing & Small Plates' title appealing to both of them. They also decide on a Quiche Lorraine for something hot and he suggests a carafe of Grenache, a Côtes du Rhône wine she's never heard of before.
Rick goes in to place the order and Kate looks around her, admiring the view and wondering at the new discoveries she's made over the last month or so. She shakes her head in disbelief and watches a mother with a couple of kids walking past, the elder, probably about nine or ten in a Spiderman outfit whilst his younger sibling seems to prefer Batman. Her amusement is interrupted by the return of Castle, but the look of envy as he watches the two kids disappear towards the Nell Singer Lilac Walk makes her burst out laughing. He looks at her petulantly, eyebrow raised in inquiry and she has to bite her lip to stop herself.
"Don't worry Castle, I'll get you one for Christmas, which do you want Spiderman or Batman?"
"Batman!" he replies unhesitatingly "But only if I can get you the Cat Woman outfit!"
She shakes her head in disbelief but can't help thinking how appropriate the outfit would be, the slow smile curling her lips making him reach out to take her hand.
As her sleeve rides up her arm slightly, his eyes are drawn downwards towards the watch on her wrist. He hesitates only momentarily then nods to it and says gently. "You said you'd tell me about the watch one day …" looking inquiringly at her, unsure if he was treading on a mine or not.
He watches her eyes cloud over in sadness and bites his own lip in worry, should he have pushed just yet? Then he relaxes slightly as she nods, unconsciously betraying her nervousness by pushing her hair back from her face and closing her eyes. When she opens them again, Kate looks directly at him and her voice drops an octave as she begins to talk.
"After my Mom's murder, my father just fell apart, he couldn't accept that she'd gone and so he began to drink. I was supposed to go back to Stanford after the Christmas break, but I called admin to tell them what had happened and that I would be arriving late. They said they understood and would hold my place open for the time being. At first I expected the cops to solve the case quickly, you know, like they do in the TV shows, maybe a week or two before they brought the culprit to justice ..." here she paused as the waitress appeared with their order, only then letting their hands pull apart as the girl set the plates down on the table and wished them a 'Bon appetite', the Yonkers accented French bringing a brief smile to Kate's face.
She takes a bite of the ham on the freshly baked bread and hums in appreciation, watching Rick stuff a whole slice of the smoked salmon into his mouth and chew enjoyingly on it. They cut the quiche into slices and he picks a piece up, holding it out towards her and she leans forward to take a bite, a bit of onion dribbling down her chin and they both laugh as she tries to catch it before it drops. A sip of wine and a pause in eating brings them back to the moment, she's been relieved to let the painful memories drop for a while, but now she needs to finish the story, tell him about her watch …
She rests both elbows on the table, glass of wine cupped in both hands, a momentary image of her mother telling her off invading her consciousness before letting out a gusty sigh and continuing.
"Things didn't go that way. One week led to another and all they would tell me was that the investigation was ongoing. By mid-January they still didn't have any leads … or at least they weren't letting on if they did … and it wasn't until I came home one night and found my Dad lying on the floor in a pile of his own vomit with an empty bottle of Bourbon next to him that I realised I had another problem to deal with. At first I thought it was just a temporary thing … you know …. he'd drink himself senseless for a few weeks and then he'd pull himself together. Then I began to get calls from bars in the neighbourhood, some that we'd used to visit on special occasions, some that I'd never heard of before, they wanted me to go fetch him or they'd be calling the cops."
Rick leans over, brushes a tear away which she wasn't even aware of, reliving the memories as she retold them, the mix of shame and embarrassment as hot today as it had been all those years ago.
She makes a grab for his hand as he begins to pull it away and placing the glass on the table takes hold of it between both of hers as if it were a lifeline, which in many ways it was he suddenly realised, he was able to anchor her in the present in spite of the difficult memories. As if reading his thoughts, she gives his hand a squeeze and continues.